How to Protect Your Location from Skimming

Understand the intentions behind skimming, best practices for protection and the types of devices used by thieves.

March 18, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, VA. – An article by Wolfgang Manz, president and CEO of PWM Electronic Price Signs, highlights ways to protect your gas station and customers, as well as the intentions behind skimming and the types of devices used by thieves.

What is skimming and how is data being stolen?
Skimming is a form of payment card fraud and theft when thieves obtain unauthorized data to sell the information on the dark web, use the account to make purchases online, and create cloned credit cards that they often use to engage in stealing fuel. Thieves break into fuel dispensers using universal keys and specialty tools that can be bought online or at your local hardware store.

There are two types of skimmers: 

  • External: Skimmers are placed on top of the card reader slot and keypad. A “shimmer” is an external skimming device that places a sleeve inside of a card reader slot and is nearly undetectable. 
  • Internal: Internal skimmers are placed inside the fuel dispenser and are more difficult to detect. These skimmers are installed by opening the dispenser door and attaching hardware to existing electrical components. 

Across the U.S., footage captured by gas station security cameras show just how quickly thieves can install a skimming device. In some instances, skimmers have been installed inside fuel dispensers in less than 15 seconds.

Who is liable when skimming occurs?
NACS data show that 29 million Americans refuel with a credit or debit card every day.

Currently, gas stations are not liable for any fraud that occurs at the pump. However, the nationwide shift to Europay, Mastercard, and Visa (EMV)—a chip and pin payment system developed to make credit and debit card transactions more secure—will shift liability to gas station owners for fraudulent transactions. This transition will occur after October 1, 2020 on fuel dispensers that are non-EMV compatible.

A Retailer’s Best Practice to Prevent Skimming at Fuel Dispensers
When skimming occurs, it’s bad for business: negative PR, loss of customers and money, and a drain on staff and resources can have an immediate impact on a gas stations profitability once word gets out that a customer has been skimmed. Fortunately, there are numerous ways retailers can protect their business and preserve the customer experience: 

  • Re-key locks on dispenser doors that have access to electronic payment data. Customizing locks are good start to preventing thieves from opening doors on fuel dispensers.
  • Purchase or upgrade fuel dispensers with a separate compartment for receipt rollers.
  • Consider using serialized security tape over all access doors you wish to protect.
  • Invest in anti-breach kits for dispensers offered by manufacturers, which generally notify and shut down dispensers that are accessed without proper security code entry. This can be costly, but it is the ultimate line of defense.
  • Site personnel should inspect the fuel island multiple times per shift for any signs of tampering, including logging and matching security tape serial numbers.
  • Enhance and strategically place outdoor lighting to help deter criminals and make it easier for store personnel to monitor fuel islands.
  • As a best practice, retailers who find skimming devices in fuel dispensers should preserve video footage as it can help criminal prosecutors identify and pursue thieves.
You can read more from PWM online.
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